“Have you ever read this book?” I asked with way too much enthusiasm. He just looked at me with an expression that said, “Yeah, right.” He was a youth pastor that already knew all the answers. His youth ministry was slightly above average in size and he was very comfortable in his position. Normally something like that wouldn’t phase me but, at the time, I’d always been around leaders who loved to read. It was unthinkable to me that someone in church leadership would frown on books (other than the Bible). He was fired a few months later. His pastor’s threshold for arrogant leadership found its limit.
In sharp contrast, I had a conversation once that went like this: “Can you recommend any good books?” I began to list some of my favorites on leadership and ministry. “Where can I get those?” I listed a couple of my favorite places to get books cheap. I had the pleasure of watching this guy take his ministry to great places.
I know, you’re thinking, “Thanks for the cheesy replay of your mentoring conversation Lee.” But it really is that simple. The one common thread I’ve found among leaders that make a sustainable difference, who know how to lead and inspire, who can stick it out for the long haul is a continued commitment to keep learning. They never stop reading, studying, or growing. They don’t rest on what they learned back in the day or what worked for them 10 years ago. In fact, they don’t rest on what they learned only 3 years ago.
This tends to be an even greater problem for someone who has been in the ministry for many years. They believe that tenure equals wisdom, but just because you’ve been doing a mediocre job for the last 20 years doesn’t mean you know a whole lot. In my opinion experience is highly overrated unless you’re learning from it and should never be a substitute for continuing your education as a leader.
So that’s the common thread I find among great leaders. They keep learning. Like an old friend of mine used to say, “Leaders are readers and readers lead.”
What are some other threads you find in good leadership?